Last year, the Federal President traveled almost the entire eastern flank of NATO. One country was missing: Estonia. Frank-Walter Steinmeier is now catching up on that.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Estonia on Wednesday. At the Ämari air force base, he wants to find out about the use of the German Air Force to monitor and protect the airspace over the Baltic States.
On March 6, the German and British Air Forces jointly took over the so-called Air Policing Baltic States. They now fly missions in mixed squadrons. That means: A so-called alarm squad, which starts when unknown aircraft approach Baltic airspace without a transponder signal or radio contact, consists of one German and one British Eurofighter.
Steinmeier already experienced what this looks like in practice when approaching Ämari. Since the jointly operating air forces have to complete a training alert twice a day anyway, they simply practiced that day with the Airbus A319 that brought Steinmeier from Berlin to Estonia. One German and one British machine each sat down on the right wing of the Airbus and escorted it to the landing.
For surveillance of the airspace
Germany has been involved in airspace surveillance since August last year. According to the Air Force, their Eurofighters have since risen to 28 alarm starts and identified Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea – the last time only on Tuesday. Around 150 German soldiers and three Eurofighter fighter jets are currently stationed here. The British are contributing three more machines.
Steinmeier later wants to meet the President of the EU and NATO partner Estonia, Alar Karis, in the capital Tallinn. He will award the Federal Cross of Merit to former President Kersti Kaljulaid. At the end of the visit, a breakfast with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who is currently conducting coalition negotiations after the election victory of her economically liberal reform party, is planned for this Thursday.
Big supporter of Ukraine
The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and its consequences will be central topics in the political talks. Kallas is considered one of Ukraine’s most staunch supporters in Europe. Under her leadership, Estonia gave more than 1 percent of its economic output to Ukraine in the form of military aid. The country, which has a population of only around 1.3 million, took in more than 60,000 refugees. Kallas also calls for a strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank. Estonia, which is slightly smaller than the state of Lower Saxony, shares a 300-kilometer border with Russia to the east.
Steinmeier had already visited the other two Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania as well as several other countries on NATO’s eastern flank last year. There, Germany’s initially hesitant support for Ukraine, which had been attacked by Russia, sowed doubts about its reliability as an ally. Germany’s adherence to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline also contributed to this. Steinmeier always emphasized that you could rely on Germany. It will meet its alliance obligations without any ifs or buts.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.